1 Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

Bravo to Catherine Chidgey, but anyway here are the results from the past fortnight’s free book giveaways.

A fortnight ago a free copy of new crime novel Double Jeopardy by Stef Harris (Quentin Wilson Publishing, $37.50) was up for grabs; and last week two crime novels in the Matakana Series by Madeleine Eskedahl, Blood on Vines and Rings on Water (both published by Squabbling Sparrows Press, $34.95) were up for grabs.

First to Double Jeopardy. One of the subjects of Harris’s tough-cop novel is parole; and so readers were asked to share a story or an insight on the subject. Many readers put on their tight Tory hat and moaned about soft sentences. Pauline Douglas of Dunedin waxed lyrical on folk hero George Wilder, the celebrated prison escaper supposedly with a heart of gold: “Finally paroled in 1969, George faded into folklore, but his heinous crimes amounted largely to car conversion and petty theft, not a ram raid or violent physical assault in sight.”

But the winner of the contest is a reader who had first-hand experience of the subject of parole. He told a horrific story but as it continued it took an unexpected twist.

Ross Pinkham wrote, “I was O/C of a police investigation into a murder in a provincial city in 1991.

“A young offender broken into a house in the early hours of the morning and randomly bludgeoned two small boys at the address and attempted to bludgeon the father. One of the boys died as a result of the attack.

“The offender was arrested a week later after scarpering out of the city to the rural area of the province. The defence at trial was one of insanity – which was unsuccessful and he was convicted on murder, and the other serious assault and sentenced to life imprisonment.

“He was released on parole in 2003, serving 12 years. He was recalled in 2004 after committing an indecency in a public place, and released again in 2011 to a family to look after him.

“My re-involvement with him came after his release in 2011. He was curfewed between 10pm and 7am, and police would call in to see if he was at home, interrupting not only his sleep but of the family who graciously offered to look after him. This was a constant visit – nearly each night.

“I was concerned that there was no hope for him to respect his terms of parole if he was constantly being checked on. I had no problems if he was away from his house during the curfew period. I made a phone call to the O/C of the Station in an effort to prevent ongoing curfew checks.

“I heard no more.”

He adds as a kind of PS: “I note that he was recalled in 2018 after being found consuming alcohol.”

Hell of a story from retired detective Ross Pinkham. A free copy of Double Jeopardy by Stef Harris is his.

And now to the Matakana Series by Madeleine Eskedahl. The author wrote about her enchanted childhood on the strange island of Gotland in ReadingRoom. Readers were asked to describe the strangest, most unearthly, place they’ve ever been to.

Ian wrote of being born in West Germany in 1956, and his parents taking him to Bergen Belsen. World War II was also invoked by Jeffrey, who wrote of visiting “the island of Kohama while researching my Dad’s war with the kamikaze in 1945”. Karin went to Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia, a sand dune carpeted with “blue wild iris and wild cranberries”.

There were other entertaining accounts of unearthly visitations but my favourite was this, from Wendy Hay: “Inside the home of the leader of the LDS Temple in Hamilton. Everything inside was exactly the same colour – a cloying, dark cream. All paint, walls, ceilings, carpets, furniture, fabrics, drapes, blinds, kitchen and bathroom fittings, handles, light fittings – not a patch of any other colour throughout the entire house. It was the most surreal sight I’d ever experienced and I had the feeling I was caught in a fictitious, dystopian time warp. I was there without the permission of the inhabitants or the church – taken by a tradesman who was helping with the refurbishment of the house. (The family was living elsewhere on the Temple site). The tradesman wanted to show me an example of his workmanship before I agreed to hire him.”

Free copies of Blood on Vines and Rings on Water are hers.

2 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

3 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

STOP PRESS! News just in (July 21, 2:44pm): Barack Obama has released his annual list of books on his summer reading list; it includes a biography of Martin Luther King, the latest thriller by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, and – woah! –  Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton. He’s posted the list on Instagram. Fancy that!

4 Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts by Josie Shapiro (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

5 Tangi by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $30)

6 The Witching Tide by Margaret Meyer (Hachette, $37.99)

7 The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan (Hachette, $36.99)

8 Kāwai by Monty Soutar (David Bateman, $39.99)

The author  was shortlisted this week for the Keri Hulme Award at the Pikihuia Awards for  Māori writers. To mark the occasion, a free copy of Kāwai is up for grabs in this week’s book giveaway. To enter, name who you consider the best five Māori authors in New Zealand, in any field (fiction, poetry, etc), with a little bit of commentary; email it to with the subject line in screaming caps AHI RUA TORU WHĀ RIMA, by Sunday, July 24 at midnight.

9 Āria by Jessica Hinerangi (Auckland University Press, $29.99)

Debut collection of poems. Here is the opening of “Spitting on the statue of Captain Cook”:

I’ve been saving up my spit since I was five years old.

That’s why my mouth was so dry through all those debates

with schoolmates and teachers, best friends and boyfriends,

 ‘Why can’t you speak Māori then?’

‘There’s no full-blooded Māori left so what are you on about?’

‘Better off being colonised weren’t you . . .’

‘You were gonna kill each other off anyway.’

‘Where would you be without colonisation?’

I couldn’t answer then because the saliva I needed

to lubricate my defence was waiting…

10 P.S. Come to Italy by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette $36.99)


1 Head On by Carl Hayman & Dylan Cleaver (HarperCollins, $39.99)

Number one for the third consecutive week. An excerpt appeared last week detailing the former AB’s ability to drink a lot of piss.

2 Fungi of Aotearoa by Liv Sisson (Penguin Random House, $45)

3 Whakawhetai: Gratitude by Hira Nathan (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

4 This is ADHD by Chanelle Moriah (Allen & Unwin, $32.99)

5 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

I think the stand-out event at next month’s WORD Christchurch Literary Festival – the strongest, the most profound – will be the appearance of Dr Hinemoa Elder onstage alongside Dr Emma Wehipeihana.

6 Matariki: The Star of the Year by Rangi Mātāmua (Huia Publishers, $35)

7 One of Them by Shaneel Lal (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

New memoir by the 2023 Young New Zealander of the Year. Awesome cover.

8 Straight Up by Ruby Tui (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

9 Resilient Grieving by Lucy Hone (Allen & Unwin, $27.99)

Publisher’s blurbology: “Dr Lucy Hone works in the field of resilience psychology, helping ordinary people exposed to real-life traumatic situations. When faced with the incomprehensible fact of her daughter’s tragic death Lucy knew that she was fighting for the survival of her sanity and her family unit.

“She used her practice to develop ways to support her family in their darkest days, and to find a new way of living without Abi.

“In Resilient Grieving Lucy shares her research so that others can work to regain some sense of control and take action in the face of helpless situations.”

10 Winter Warmers by Philippa Cameron (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)

Steve Braunias is the literary editor of Newsroom's books section ReadingRoom, a noted writer at the NZ Herald, and the author of 10 books.

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